Amalie Arena hosts fans for the first time in a year

For the first time this season, fans are getting the chance to see the Stanley Cup Champions in-person. Saturday's Lightning game is the first game this season to allow in-person attendance. 

For the first time in more than a year, fans are back at Amalie Arena.

"I haven’t stopped smiling. I miss the games completely. I’ve never missed an opening day ever I’m so excited to be here when they raise the banner," Lightning fan Natalie Patenaud said.

Saturday, the Lightning opened up the game to allow limited in-person attendance welcoming back a maximum of 3,800 fans.

"This is what we do for a living this is what we love and to be able to share it with people. That’s what it’s all about," Vinik Sports Group Executive Vice-President of Event Management Kevin Preast said.

The last game with in-person attendance was exactly one year and one day ago back on March 12.

"It feels great it was so wonderful to watch them win the Stanley Cup but it was kind of bittersweet not being able to be there and cheer them on so I’m very excited," Lightning fan Bonnie Favetta shared.

For months, officials have been working out the details to be able to allow fans back into the games. As part of the new rules, fans must socially distance themselves and wear a face mask at all times unless eating or drinking.

"We just felt the timing was right. Coming out of a long road trip and we made the decision a little while ago if the numbers held true we were going to pull the trigger and we were able to do it," Preast explained.

Since the pandemic began, only player's friends and family have been able to attend the games, making Saturday's game the first game allowing in-person since the Lightning won the Stanley Cup back in September.

"We've got the Bucs. We've got the Rays. We've got all other teams, but this is the team," Patenaud said.

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